April 1, 2021- The fast pace of technology improvements, the impending arrival of an era where AI and big data are changing the landscape of work, automating jobs and creating skill gaps in the market are all making more and more companies preoccupied - and rightfully so.
In a 2020 report by PwC, 74% of CEOs stated they were concerned about the availability of key skills and of those, 32% admitted they were 'extremely concerned'. To ensure a thriving future, companies are now required to invest in their workforce more than ever, upskilling and reskilling them to prepare them for new ways of working.
Upskilling is the process of improving a current skill set. It's a vertical growth path towards optimized abilities and potential leadership in a specific field of expertise. Reskilling focuses on entirely new abilities, preparing an individual for steering his or her career in a different direction.
There are numerous benefits to upskilling and reskilling, from improving a company's long-term perspectives, increasing productivity and internal mobility, to ensuring talent retention and bringing new, likeminded talent.
However, in order for these efforts to be successful, employees need to be fully on board. It is not enough for companies to assess their needs, design learning paths and enroll their employees. Managed incorrectly, both upskilling and reskilling can become complicated processes, met with resistance and can even turn ineffective. That is why, we have listed 5 tips to encourage your employees to upskill and reskill.
1. START FROM THE TOP
Higher management does not only have an essential role in establishing a vision for the future of the company and the skills necessary for fulfilling it but is also indispensable when instilling a strong learning culture. From higher management, the mindset must pervade all layers of the company, onto people managers and down to every single employee.
Lead by example, ensuring that higher management and people managers are engaged in continuous learning. Encourage them to share their experience, their struggles and successes and to advocate and encourage their workforce to do the same. Involve the internal communication department and ensure that these messages are disseminated company-wide on a regular basis.
Further on, higher management and people managers can take a more active role by participating in mentoring programs or 1 to 1 coaching, strengthening further the reskilling and upskilling strategy you are devising.
Getting management involved through all these means will support the creation of a culture of learning, beneficial not only for supporting a bright future for the company but also for attracting new talent. Younger generations are especially eager to learn and improve themselves and will be more willing to join a company with the same mindset.
2. MAKE IT ACCESSIBLE AND INTERESTING
Are you aware of the learning format preferred by the workforce in your company? Whether they prefer full days of training or bitesize information, learning onsite or online, it is mandatory to consult them before starting to design learning paths. At Barco, we predict a future of work and, by consequence, of learning and development that is hybrid and blended.
The safest option is to be flexible and deliver learning content in multiple formats: instructor-led, be it online, onsite or hybrid, but also pre-recorded videos or ebooks for individual learning. Make training material available on-demand and mobile-accessible to offer the opportunity to learn whenever convenient.
In live instructor-led training, turn sessions interactive - by using polls and quizzes - and collaborative - by using breakout rooms for teamwork and in-depth discussions. According to LinkedIn 2021 Workplace Learning Report, a staggering percent of L&D professionals believe that employees who learn together are more successful (91%), and that it helps create a sense of belonging (92%).
3. OPTIMIZE LEARNING JOURNEYS
Once you have conducted research in your company to find out what kind of learning journeys your employees would like, then designed and rolled out the upskilling or reskilling programs, you will need to constantly track, measure and optimize.
Constantly review the learning paths and register progress. Ask for regular feedback from both trainers and trainees by establishing several checkpoints along the journey. According to the same report by LinkedIn, in the UK, 43% of L&D professionals are using different methods to determine how satisfied employees are with learning programs, including qualitative feedback, surveys, talent retention rates and company mobility rates.
Education technology can be of tremendous help, providing data and analytics of engagement, attention and interaction with the training material and other participants. The number of online courses completed and business metrics (deals closed, customer satisfaction, leads generated, etc.) before and after training as well as productivity increase can prove especially useful.
Assessing learning journeys and optimizing them will make learning easier and more effective, and support talent acquire new skills or improve existing ones at a faster and more enjoyable pace.
4. INCENTIVIZE LEARNING
Incentivizing employees is part of any company's internal strategy. It helps employees feel more motivated, productive and valuable. That is why incentives should not be missed in the overall strategy for upskilling or reskilling workforces.
But what kind of incentives could be offered? Financial incentives or in-kind rewards can definitely prove useful but there are many other ways to show appreciation and encourage employees.
Gamify learning and give achievement badges or certificates that can easily be shared on LinkedIn or on internal social channels. Make sure you have top achievers put into spotlight by their managers in team meetings, by higher management during regular company meetings or during end-of-the-year events.
Lastly, you can even feature them in internal campaigns in newsletters, interviews and articles to support that culture of learning so necessary in nowadays' successful companies.
5. PROMOTE WELLBEING
Increasingly uncertain times can take a toll on everyone's mental health. When your workforce is worried about the stability of their job or the health of their loved ones, upskilling and reskilling can be more difficult and take longer. Nonetheless, they remain crucial undertakings at both organizational and individual level. How can L&D improve their employees' capacity to learn?
Apart from creating a general sense of stability and calm regarding the future of the company and of their jobs, in what concerns wellbeing, Dr Guy Champniss, Head of Behavioural Science at engagement consultancy The Creative Engagement Group (CEG) advises to stay hydrated, get good sleep, eat healthy and manage stress.
Involve internal communication and HR and drive wellness campaigns. That can range from a regular newsletter with tips and tricks encouraging a healthy lifestyle, to more complex undertakings such as virtual yoga classes or workshops on stress management.
All these activities can improve your workforce' ability to acquire new knowledge and will make your learning paths shorter and overall, your upskilling and reskilling efforts more effective.